Price of condo land in acquisition case comes under debate

Residents of the high-end Thomson 800 condo argue that the sliver of land acquired by the Government is worth at least $5.8 million. But the Collector of Land Revenue is prepared to pay only about $615,000.
Residents of the high-end Thomson 800 condo argue that the sliver of land acquired by the Government is worth at least $5.8 million. But the Collector of Land Revenue is prepared to pay only about $615,000.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

At issue is the reasonable sum to be paid and fair market value

WHAT is a fair price for a slice of land in a condominium complex, used for 13 carpark spaces, an electrical substation, trees and drains, has come up for debate in a land acquisition dispute.

Residents of the high-end Thomson 800 condo opposite MacRitchie Reservoir argue that the 600.9 sq m sliver of land acquired by the Government is worth at least $5.8 million. But the Collector of Land Revenue is prepared to pay only about $615,000.

This would work out to about $925.28 per sq m, or $86 per sq ft, for the affected freehold land - a land price unheard of here, residents argue.

The 10m-wide plot was acquired by the Government in 2011, as part of the construction of the North South Expressway Stage 1 from Admiralty Road to Toa Payoh Rise and redevelopment.

At issue in the case before the Appeals Board (Land Acquisition) is what makes for a reasonable sum to be paid and what makes for fair market value.

"We accept the space is lost but the issue is whether a different value can be given to a particular area, which is for a particular use when it was bought as part of a whole (in) the first place," said Thomson 800 resident Steven Sobak, 67, treasurer of the condo's management committee.

The 600.9 sq m plot below the road level adjoining Marymount Road forms 2.1 per cent of the 28,573 sq m of freehold land making up Thomson 800.

Completed in 1999, it is Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing's maiden residential project in Singapore. There are a total of 390 units in a four-storey apartment block and three 20-storey blocks. Facilities include swimming pools, tennis courts and a clubhouse.

The Collector of Land Revenue awarded some $556,000, with an ex gratia payment of $58,380 as compensation in July 2012.

The Appeals Board, comprising Commissioner of Appeals Foo Tuat Yien, a senior district judge; Singapore Institute of Architects president Rita Soh, a Nominated Member of Parliament; and Associate Professor Sing Tien Foo from the department of real estate of the National University of Singapore, held hearings over three days in July.

Valuers from opposing sides had agreed that the market value, based on the residential zoning and plot ratio, was about $11 million but differed on the amount to be discounted and the adjustment factor to be applied to the market value.

Valuers for the authorities argued that the affected land is part of a road and green buffer zone, which meant its use was very limited and incapable of further residential or other redevelopment. This had to be factored to determine the market value.

The sum payable was worked out with the rent paid for a playing field in Upper Thomson Road as a benchmark.

But lawyers from Infinitus Law Corporation, representing Thomson 800 residents, questioned this. They suggested alternative ways with reference to Singapore Land Authority rates for "remnant land", or small plots of land left over after development.

Closing submissions were made last month by both parties to the Board and the outcome is pending.

vijayan@sph.com.sg